Tiong Bahru Plaza to reopen next year after $90m revamp

An artist's impression of Tiong Bahru Plaza after the facelift. After its makeover, the mall will have new communal spaces for people to mingle, including an open terrace on the fourth level, among other things.
An artist's impression of Tiong Bahru Plaza after the facelift. After its makeover, the mall will have new communal spaces for people to mingle, including an open terrace on the fourth level, among other things.PHOTO: ASIAMALLS MANAGEMENT

Makeover designed to attract area's residents but also younger crowd

Tiong Bahru residents will soon have a newly refurbished mall to go with the hipster joints and boutiques their estate is known for.

By the end of next year, the 21- year-old Tiong Bahru Plaza will fully reopen with a more modern look after renovations, which began a year ago, are completed.

The makeover, which costs more than $90 million, aims to draw younger residents and families already living there.

Ms Stephanie Ho, deputy chief executive officer of AsiaMalls Management, said the revamp hopes to "capture both the characteristics of the old neighbourhood and the new hip factor".

Comprising a network of low-rise housing blocks built in the 1940s and 1950s, Tiong Bahru, in recent years, has become a hot spot for a younger crowd. Meanwhile, Tiong Bahru Plaza is frequented mainly by residents, who go there to buy groceries.

Market researcher Audrey Tsen, 26, who has lived in the area's Jalan Membina for three years, said: "I go to the mall only for necessities and dinner every week. Most of the stores are heartland shops. Renovating it is a good idea, and it could attract a younger crowd as it has quite a central location."

After its makeover, the mall, which draws 1.2 million visitors each month, will cover 215,000 sq ft, up from the previous 190,000 sq ft. It will have new communal spaces for people to mingle, including an open terrace on the fourth level, and a plaza, which may be used for events like flea markets or music performances.

On the third level, there will be a new 800 sq m playground, with a structure in the shape of a bird - inspired by the mosaic ones found in older public housing estates.

Tiong Bahru used to be known for its bird-singing corners, where people would gather at weekends to admire each others' pets and hold bird-singing competitions.

The mall in Tiong Bahru Road will have 155 shops on five storeys, up from 150 previously. It will also have an air-conditioned, two-storey link with shops to Central Plaza, the mall's office tower.

So far, nearly 85 per cent of tenants have confirmed their interest in opening shop. Some are returning brands like foodcourt operator Kopitiam and IT chain Challenger, while others are new ones such as Thai restaurant Bangkok Jam.

The mall, owned by a real estate fund managed by investment manager Pramerica Investment Management Singapore, is hoping to attract more visitors as more people move into the area.

Said Ms Ho: "If the mall is sitting in a location for some time without any renewal, it's hard for shoppers to continue identifying with it, and come back to it for things other than necessities.

She added that the estate is also undergoing a "regeneration" as more residents move in.

Over the next three years, Tiong Bahru will have 11 new residential developments, with about 2,800 units. For instance, Highline Residences, a condominium within walking distance of the mall, is expected to be completed by 2018.

Madam Lin Yi Ting, 32, who has lived in the area for three years, said she did not frequent the mall as the shops "were not impressive".

"It's time to refresh the stores at the mall, to have a mix of fashion retailers that appeal to the young," said Madam Lin, who works in a manufacturing firm.

She said: "It would be nice to take my two-year-old daughter to the new playground on weekends. But it's also good that the mall is trying to retain the old vibe because there are still a lot of old folk living here, and it's part of Tiong Bahru's history."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2015, with the headline 'Tiong Bahru Plaza to reopen next year after $90m revamp'. Print Edition | Subscribe